Leaders Today Are Better Than They Have Ever Been: Marshall Goldsmith
In an interview with BW Businessworld’s Editor-in-Chief Dr Annurag Batra, Goldsmith spoke about the changing concept of leadership and how he plans to build his leadership coaching legacy into a mass movement with Indian leaders playing an important role in it
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Bestselling author and acclaimed leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith was in India recently to interact with a select group of entrepreneurs at Taj Gurugram. In an interview with BW Businessworld’s Editor-in-Chief Dr Annurag Batra, Goldsmith spoke about the changing concept of leadership and how he plans to build his leadership coaching legacy into a mass movement with Indian leaders playing an important role in it.
Tell us about your tryst with leadership coaching, how did it all start?
I was a college professor and dean; I met a very famous man in Dr. Paul Hersey who invented situational leadership with Ken Blanchard, probably the highest paid consultant in our field at that time. He was kind enough to let me follow him around and one day he called me and said, “Can you do what I do?” I said, “I don’t know.”
He said I will pay you $1,000 a day, and that was 42 years ago and I was 28 years old. I was bought up poor, so I said sign me up and I did a programme for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York.
They were very angry when I showed up because I was not him, yet I got ranked first out of all other speakers. After that they told him, can you send Marshall again, and that is how I got into leadership development. After that I eventually got into coaching and ultimately into writing, and my first book was called The Leader of the future.
Lately, you are focused on creating the MG 100. Can you tell us more about this initiative?
I went to a program called ‘Design the Life you Love’, and in the program we were asked who were our favourite heroes, and my heroes are very kind and generous people who are great teachers.
One day I made a selfie video and said that I am looking to adopt 15 people and teach them all for free and if you are interested let me know. I thought I might have a hundred applicants, but I ended up having over 16 thousand applicants.
Now I have adopted around 140 people in the main group. I will also be adopting 100 people from India and we have already got around 2,500 applicants from India. So it has been a very unique process and for me this is my legacy project. One of my goals is to build this initiative into a movement, so I add up people and they add up and it spreads like a movement.
Has the concept of leadership seen a shift in the last five years, especially in terms of the quality of leaders that we see today?
I think leaders today are probably better than they have ever been. Yes, people are critical than they have ever been, and what people complain about today would have been the norm 30 years ago.
The world now is much better than it has ever been, extreme poverty on earth is at an all-time low by far, discrimination around the world is all-time low, so there are a lot of positive changes in the world and no one talks about them. So today the world of leadership, compared to what it was in the past, is much more positive.
Who is your favourite leader and what are the leadership trends, according to you, that can become accentuated in the coming years?
My favourite two leaders are Alan Mulally, former CEO, Ford Motor Company and Francis Hesselbein, CEO of American Girl Scouts movement, and I feel very lucky to know such people.
As far as leadership trends to watch out for are concerned, one is global thinking. More and more leadership is global and not local. Number two is building alliances and partnerships. Leaders of the future are going to be ones who will build alliances to manage across and not just down.
The third one is being technologically savvy and leaders of the future would need to know how the technologies work, they cannot ignore technology in any field anymore. Number four would be that the leaders would be facilitators and fifth that they will have more cross-cultural appreciation.